Oranjestad, St. Eustatius – Many Statians celebrated the grand opening ceremony of their new airport last Friday, August 27th, 2021. The day was filled with entertainment, performances and music. Statia can now proudly boast of a new terminal building that is approximately 4 times the area of the former terminal building.
Government Commissioner Alida Francis said during her address that several generations have been waiting for this day and that Statia achieved another milestone due to the cooperation and commitment of two Dutch Ministries. These are the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. “Without the financial and technical support of these two ministries the realization of the new airport would not have been possible. On behalf of all Statians I express profound gratitude to the Dutch Central Government for their continued support.” Deputy Government Commissioner Claudia Toet could unfortunately not attend due to her recent visit to the Netherlands and the monitoring protocol she is in. Toet sees the new airport as an important milestone to handle more passengers and that Statians will now be better connected in to the region. “I am delighted with the result of the new building and also the pictures in the arrival hall that show the beauty of Statian citizens and the environment. A special thanks to all the photographers and organizers. Claudia Toet indicates that the next step is to arrange more and cheaper connectivity within the Caribbean Region. This is already addressed by the Dutch Government, she said.
St Eustatius can be proud of this achievement, said the Minister of Infrastructure and Water management (I&W), Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, in her video message which was broadcasted on the TV screen during the ceremony. “ Statia now has a modernized airport that is ready for the future. An airport that connects the island with the region and with the Netherlands. The terminal is easy to expand. The construction is hurricane proof, which is crucial in this region. The Dutch Minister expressed her gratitude to all the people that were involved in the realization of the new terminal. “Over the past two years everybody has worked incredibly hard, even when the COVID pandemic complicated matters. During construction the airport had to be kept open and safe.” Van Nieuwenhuizen finds the results impressive. “Building was done with the future in mind. It’s attractive, both on the outside and on the inside, with lots of local art and photos that reflect the island’s culture. It’s great that the residents were closely involved, making it an airport created by the people and for the people of St. Eustatius. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this fantastic result: the architects of NACO1, Rijkswaterstaat for the implementation, the Public Entity St. Eustatius for the excellent cooperation and the island’s residents for their patience and support”.
Reuben Merkman congratulated everyone that made the airport a reality, “This has been a long and arduous journey of many years and we have not gained the mountain top as yet. Merkman mentioned that an airport is a pivotal structure in the development of any island. “As far back as I can remember, governments have been trying to make this airport a source of revenue for the island coffers and a viable investment attraction to private and commercial aviation. This building is a step in the right direction. An airport is one of the main gateways to a country and a means for tourists and investors entering our economy and spending much needed monies. We must ensure that whoever comes to Statia that we do all that is within our powers to make them want to return again.” The Island Council member indicated that there are quite some developments and innovations that can be pursued by the airport and transport management to generate business. Testing and electronic flying, jet parking, plane shows, personal air land vehicle project, fueling and repair of small planes and jets, for example. “ There is much work to be done on Statia to attract people to the island,” Merkman said.
The ceremony started with a musical interlude by RunnThings Entertainment followed by the opening by the Master of Ceremony, an invocation and singing of the Golden Rock Song by Vocè Dynamico. Alida Francis, Reuben Merkman and Cora van Nieuwenhuizen held their speeches after which the ribbon was cut with a big scissor. The Aloei Historical Dancers was the last group to perform with a special dance for the occasion.
In total 13 aviation pioneers received a plaque to thank them for their commitment and service to the aviation industry. The Commercial Manager of Transport, Vishal Oedjagir, closed the ceremony with a vote of thanks after which the attendees could enjoy drinks, and snacks and music.
The first known airport on Statia was a small “house like” structure that was opened in 1946, the Golden Rock Airport. In 1939 President Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the Unites States of America, was the first and only USA President to touch Statian soil. His visit was an acknowledgement of the friendly gesture on November 16th, 1776 when Statia became the first foreign country to recognize the sovereignty of the newly independent USA. The airport was later renamed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Airport after him.
The first major upgrade and modernization of the airport was in 1972. The second known major renovation and expansion took place in 1993, followed by a 3rd smaller renovation in 2007. Then again in 2011 yet a 4th major renovation of the entire was carried out. The commencement of the project in 2019 marked the end of upgrades to the old airport building and the beginning of a brand new, long overdue and long awaited construction of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Airport.
In order to be compliant with international regulations, the airport is working hard on becoming certified. It is expected to complete the audits (Aerodrome and Security) and to be fully certified in 2022. The Aviation security trainings of the security personnel was just finalized. All airport staff is certified and compliant, which is a great milestone achievement as compliance is a very important pillar for a sustainable growth of the airport which will guarantee safety, security, a hi-quality service and a firm basis for a great passenger experience at the airport.
Currently the first phase of the Airport masterplan is completed. The upcoming phase will focus on increasing the aircraft parking area (apron), fueling capability, hangar development and the re-design of the former airport terminal building. This will provide room for further commercialization of the airport.
The construction of the airport was financed by the Dutch ministry of Infrastructure and Water management (I&W). Van Boekel was the contractor for the new airport. The terminal measures 1100 square meter roof and 700 square meter inner space.